Goddess Isis in temple of Dakka

Goddess Isis

Goddess Isis is one of the famous goddesses in ancient Egypt. She was the goddess of fertility, motherhood, magic, death, healing and rebirth. Isis came from a divine family. Also, this goddess was the first daughter of Geb, the god of earth, and Nut, the goddess of the sky. Isis was married to her brother Osiris and gave birth to god Horus.

Isis’ divine position in ancient Egypt

Goddess Isis played a vital role in the Osiris myth during the Old Kingdom. However, Isis lacked her dedicated temples, and ancient Egyptians worshipped her among other deities. She played a limited role in royal rituals and temple rites; but, she was more prominent in funerary practices and magical texts. Gradually, she grew in importance until she became one of the most important deities in ancient Egypt.

Starting from the New Kingdom, Osiris and Isis became the most widely worshipped Egyptian deities. By then, Isis absorbed characteristics from many other goddesses. A significant event has happened that this period witnessed building dedicated temples for Osiris and Isis in Egypt and Nubia.

Goddess Isis came to its most wide reputation during the Hellenistic period (323–30 BCE). Her cult spread throughout the Roman Empire that people of that time worshipped Isis from England to Afghanistan. There, Greeks and Egyptians worshipped her, along with a new god, Serapis.

Temples Dedicated to Goddess Isis

With the spread of Isis’ reputation, the ancient Egyptians dedicated some temples to her cult. During the Late Period, king Nectanebo II (360–343 BCE) built her the first significant temple. This temple still stands at Behbeit el-Hagar in the centre of the Nile Delta. Other temples dedicated to her cult were constructed during the Greco-Roman Period, including the island temple of Philae.

Temples of Philae

The Temples of Philae stands on one of the islands in the Nile River. Its original place was on Philae Island in Aswan. The ancient Egyptian name of Philae was Pilak. The Greek and Latin Philae derives from that name, Pilak. During the Islamic era, the local people called it El-Qasr or the Castle in English. Also, they named it Geziret Anas el-Wogud, after the hero of one of the tales, “Arabian Nights.“  According to this tale, her father locked her up on Philae. Therefore, this hero traced his beloved to this island.

After building the High Dam in Aswan, there was a need to move this complex to the next island, Agilika. For this reason, Egypt welcomed the help of UNESCO. Thus, the engineers and builders decided to reconstruct this temple complex on Agilika Island. Agilika lies 12 km to the south of the High Dam.

History of Philae Temples

The oldest surviving temple buildings date back to Nectanebo I (370 BC). Today’s imposing buildings were erected by the Ptolemaic Kingdom in the last two centuries BC and by the Roman Emperors in the first three centuries AD. And, the Great Temple of Isis is the most prominent building in this complex.

As Nubians were the last to convert to Christianity, the temple remained serving the goddess, Isis. However, Justinian announced Christianity as the country’s official religion (AD 527-565). After that, the Christians used it as a church.

The island was one of the most beautiful places in Egypt and attracted large numbers of visitors every year. Just after the construction of the Aswan Dam in 1922, water merged it for a significant part of the year. For this reason, the temples were accessible only between August and December. Once again, another event dramatically threatened the existence of this fantastic complex: building the High Dam in Aswan. Therefore, UNESCO helped to move this complex to the next safe island between 1972 and 1980.

1 thought on “Goddess Isis

  1. What an incredible story of the family of Gods! Ancient Egypt was full of such stories and firmly believed in them as well. That is well evident from the temples that they have built for them for centuries. Until the advent of Christianity when Egypt was declared as a Christian state. The prominent among them was the Goddess Isis, who was part of a Royal family of Gods. But strangely though legend says that she was married to her brother Orisis, which I believe is to maintain the chastity of Royal Blood. Feels eerie, but it is said to be true. Isis was said to be an embodiment of fertility in all its aspects including motherhood. She also had a widespread reputation and her cult spread out of Egypt as well. She was worshiped with respect and that is evident from the temple being built in her name and her legacy. Her temple needs viewing. So do come here.

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